Operationally, Cityclean has not been performing at its best for some months now. Steadying the ship is surely the biggest problem facing the new administration at Brighton and Hove City Council.
You might be looking at your uncollected rubbish thinking it must be a one off. It is not. Our neighbourhoods have had a pandemic of missed collections for months.
This is a sign of a serious breakdown at Cityclean that neither the Greens managed to resolve nor Labour wanted to talk about in any detail before the local elections. Of the “basic services” to be fixed, this must come in at number 1.
Labour, in their manifesto, avoided the detail but promised “reliable rubbish and recycling collection” as its “top priority” including a review of where communal bins are placed.
It is now time for the Labour majority council to talk about the nuts and bolts of the issue and focus on fixing the problems – otherwise their manifesto pledge will not be fulfilled.
With Labour having put themselves in another policy straitjacket by opposing any contracting out of service-delivery, they are now faced with only one possible policy solution – reforming Cityclean and getting it performing. So how do you solve a problem like Cityclean?
There’s been silence on this from the new administration who must be sitting around a table trying to come up with a solution for how to crack the Cityclean nut. After all, many Labour councillors will be members of the GMB, Cityclean’s trade union of choice.
Cityclean is of course a creation of the Labour Party – pushed through the last time they had a majority in Brighton and Hove, when they decided to insource a service that was previously contracted out.
But as is the tale with other Labour and Green insourced ventures (housing repairs and public toilets) things have not gone to plan – and services have got worse under insourced ventures.
Over the past 12 years Cityclean’s problems have been recurring with increasing frequency and impacting the daily lives of residents, seemingly never to be resolved.
Bin strikes, leading to massive pay settlements (driving up council tax to national highs) and promises of a better-run service have never delivered any improvements to residents.
Take the recent strikes, which generated extra costs to residents of £900,000 a year. This “resolution” came with promises of reform and responsibility to improve performance. But neither has been delivered.
Some pockets of the city have seen 25 per cent of their yearly collection weeks missed. Others exist in “black spots” where Cityclean trucks do not drive down.
Beyond the service issues, there have been more serious problems bubbling away. In 2020 councillors were told that Cityclean was being probed for fraud, bullying and sabotaged vehicles, when auditors said that they had not been able to count all the costs of the problems at Cityclean when the organisation’s budget was overspent by more than £3 million in the two years to the end of March 2020.
With the election having been and gone, the problems seem worse than ever.
Residents both in the Goldstone Valley and in Patcham want answers. In Withdean, residents have been complaining that since the recycling bins have been re-sited to below the Withdean Stadium site, in Tongdean Lane, rubbish and recycling collections faltered.
Not only have residents complained about how unsightly and smelly these bins are, it also seems from emails in my inbox that these are not being emptied frequently enough, with residents asking for them to be moved elsewhere.
In the Paddock, in the Droveway, residents have had the same problem for months – refuse collectors missing their road while the recycle team were collecting on their rounds.
A resident from Marmion Road recently wrote to me noting how in recent weeks, bins were emptied once every three weeks on a regular basis instead of the weekly Cityclean contracted collections.
At Woodland Court, residents have been complaining since the start of the year that Cityclean have not been turning up to empty the bins on a regular basis.
As taxpaying residents in this city, you just can’t win against the plethora of excuses in the midst of this epidemic of missed collections: vehicles breaking down, not charged or missing the assisted collections list – or it simply being “too hot”.
You must be asking if anyone is getting spoken to or disciplined for missing collections time and time again. Once a collection is missed, it is a battle to get it caught up. Residents often just have to wait another two weeks for the next one and hope that it materialises.
Like the increasingly dire situation with the weeds that are now increasingly causing problems, we would look to the administration for both leadership and answers on what is going on at Cityclean and, more importantly, what is the new Labour administration going to do about it.
Samer Bagaeen is a Conservative councillor on Brighton and Hove City Council. He represents Westdene and Hove Park ward.
I think more of us than ever are now aware we’ve been had and Cityclean are scamming the council tax-payers of Brighton & Hove. We pay for a service which isn’t delivered and we are not refunded nor apologised to when that service isn’t delivered.
There is a ‘report missed collection’ option online on BHCC website which I use when the collections are missed, it seems to work because either that same day or the next, the bin men turn up and the rubbish is removed. I am grateful for the option, however, I do get frustrated having to remind them of their own job responsibilities.
Overall, I think the time has come that Cityclean face the residents of Brighton & Hove in a meeting in person. It should be set up in the Town Hall or other large space so that they face us and our questions. No more hiding behind GMB or local councillors. They must face us and the council should set the meeting up for us.
Cityclean is the council
I’m well aware.
How does that change residents asking the Council for a meeting between residents and CityClean?
It is the residents who voted in the councillors and the councillors are answerable to the residents.
It seems to me the charade that is CityClean who continue to get away with daylight robbery is because CityClean are never made to face the people who pay their wages and who they let down.
Instead, one councillor or another from various parties spins them one way or another and the residents and council tax payers are kept in a constant merry-go-round of spiel and NOTHING changes.
Samar Bagaeen, it would be beneficial if you contributed to the comments section rather than just writing blogs and content.
Real leaders do that. Take a leaf out of Elon Musk’s book and be brave.
Given that the next local election is a long way off, couldn’t Mr Bagaeen do more for the city by proposing solutions than simply pointing his finger at a problem everyone else has already seen?
“With the election having been and gone, the problems seem worse than ever.”
The election was only three weeks ago and Labour don’t officially come into office until Thursday afternoon at the Councils AGM.
The new city clean committee has yet to meet (because it hasn’t been formed yet) to be able to make any decisions,
Interesting article. Next it would be good to have an article on why CityParks is doing such a poor job of tending to gardens.
I have to say they’ve been doing an alright job in my area, to give credit where it is due. I also have a good relationship with the team up our way, so we have been able to advocate for our residents in an effective and amicable way when an issue arises.
£ and lack of staff , no one wants to do this work anymore, the ones that did left
Having worked for city clean
Some people don’t understand the pressure of the job
Low staff numbers
No one wants to do the job even though the money paid is fantastic and the hours are great too
Low funding for new vehicle from previous councils
Members off the public just dumping all sorts in the bins when they should be more responsible in the way they get rid of rubbish, from not just putting a bin bag next too a comm bim to not loading them with large items so they fill up too quick and cause a problem to the operatives and the vehicles
The fact this is being blamed on city clean is wrong and unfair, I’ve seen these guys work, and they work hard to ensure they give the best they can with dealing with public stupidity and low funding.
Cityclean give it everything they can so I think this conservative councilor should look elsewhere than blaming cityclean
That’s actually a brave response there, and very important to highlight that we don’t know the other side of the story either.
I suspect the truth might lie somewhere in the middle, as most things usually are. There’s a definite need for education in how people manage their waste, a simple example is the expectation that people will do a certain about of recycling.
Flytipping, at least in my area remains a prominent issue too, although I’ve been working with the council to capture who’s been doing it – surprisingly there’s been a few folks outside of the area who drive in specifically to dump waste, so I’d also be wary of assuming it’s exclusively the neighbours!
On the other hand, being in such a rush has resulted in bins being damaged and rubbish left on the floor before, and this can only be attributed to carelessness. Quite understandably, there’s time pressure…I can definitely relate to that, but equally, a half job needs to be done twice.
Likewise, Cllr Bagaeen is quick to complain here, but yet I’ve never encountered him on my many discussions around this challenge.
As a city planner by profession, I am surprised he has not offered much in the way of alternative methods to better improve the efficiency of the job, including alternative options to roadside bin containers.
Bin men used to carry a full bin from my garden on their shoulders and backs and did so for decades.
They were brilliant.
There was no recycling back then. No sorting glass from paper or tins from dog poo. Everything went in the rubbish bin and the binmen were happy to take it, on their back or shoulders.
Did they miss collecting the rubbish?
No they did not.
Under Labour and Green, their public service is no longer a service to the public.
End the abuse of the tax payer and restore respect between the residents and the council.
Large bulky items are an interesting one because I strongly believe that the issue with that part is that to remove them the “approved” way, costs almost as much as to risk a flytipping fine.
We’ve had quite a few successful amnesty events for bulky waste removal, and I would encourage the council to consider a regular “spring clean” for residents. Crunching the numbers most likely would be cheaper to do it this way than to consistently pick up reported items, and would encourage people to wait for the scheduled amnesty days than to flytip.
This article is long on criticism and very short on answers. Outsourcing or insourcing makes little difference given the payer and unions stay the same. The difficulty is how to engage the workforce and their union in creating a top flight service and that is much easier said than done. This is particularly so where the union has very significant clout by reason of its ability to rotate strikes so as to cripple the service even while many union members remain at work.
Robots will be doing the binmens’ jobs within 10 years, probably a lot less and when that happens they’ll realise they should have played the game better or they wouldn’t have been so easily disposed of. But they insisted on playing hardball, messing about and believing the good take the mick times would never end.
Unions will have no say against robots and AI.
I’d rather have people doing it myself, but these guys don’t respect us.
So a solution would be?
This is the issue with Tory councillors in Brighton, like to point out the obvious but propose no solution.
Basically they need to put all the management on performance reviews. They equally need to cancel the electric vehicle order the greens made as it was 4 trucks for the price of 16 ( mental) then get some more new normal diesel trucks. Quickest way to bring down the workload would be to install more of the communal bins, All these wheely bins blocking pavements, it’s a very old hat way of collecting the rubbish. Cold hard fact of the matter is the greens hated city clean and refused to spend the money where it was needed and I think the feeling was mutual.
We have communal bins in my neighbourhood and they’re excellent. Short walk to drop off rubbish, always space (except when the strikes were on), and the recycling is right there with it. I have no idea why people would prefer wheely bins.
The council made us have wheelie bins.
If you don’t know that, it’s likely you don’t live in Brighton or Hove.
If you re-read my comment, you’ll realise I have no idea why some people prefer wheely bins. Why they have them in the first place is a separate matter.
Make manufacturers and food outlets responsible for their waste . Amazon take back cardboard when they deliver. Same goes for any delivery they take back the packaging . Make them pay for the disposal of their created waste not us